Patrick murmurs the instructions with his Kenyan-laden accent.
“How many?” I ask. I’m sure I’ve misheard him.
“50,” he says.
“Of each exercise?” I’m incredulous.
“Yes,” he smiles, his bright white teeth shining against his ebony skin.
Oh that’s right, I’m at Kill-fit class.
They advertise it as Cross-fit. But what is it a cross of? I think it’s me carrying the cross of potato chips I ate yesterday.
Kill-fit seems a more appropriate moniker for this class.
Granted, my cross-fit training on our world wide trip included me crossing continents, crossing borders, crossing my husband. Not necessarily heart-pumping, sweat-it-out crossings. Well, maybe with Curtis it was.
When we returned from our trip, I knew the time had come to get back in shape. For two years previous, I obediently woke at 5:30am, walked the dog, and headed down to the park for booty camp. You read that right, boot-y camp. My booty thanked me for this class – it had so much more room now to slide into my jeans.
But alas, booty camp took every extra cent of operating cash I possessed. So six months before our departure, I took the money and ran, literally. I stuffed my cash in the bank to save for our impending adventure, and laced up my runners. Not as thrilling as being in the park at o-dark-thirty and watching the sun rise over 20 middle aged women grunting out burpees. But still, running gets to the point – lots of heavy breathing – for the price of a sturdy pair of tennies.
After I’d spent my last dime on that worldwide trip of ours, coming back to booty camp was out of the question. But I could swing $26 a month at the gym next to our church.
Enter Patrick, the master of killing you with kindness – and workouts. Workouts designed to bring a boot camp recruit to their knees.
Actually, I spent the first two weeks on my knees. Not in the gym – at home. Literally, I could not walk.
Our first workout circuit employed several draconian measures typically reserved for interrogating terrorists. One-legged squats can break a man.
They can break a woman too. This woman, to be exact. In fact, I thought my entire right quad could justifiably be considered broken even though it is a muscle. I limped around for days. I walked down stairs backwards. My gait was alarmingly identical to Arlo’s in Justified, after he got shot by his Federal Marshall son.
Time heals all wounds they say, and it was (almost) true for my quad.
Next class: Abs. Sit-ups were on the menu. I lay on the ground, face up. Patrick hands me a large round heavy ball. Think medicine ball on steroids. “Throw the ball to me as you come up for your sit-up.” And because I can do one, he makes it harder.
“Now put your hands over your head, and throw the ball to me as you come up.” I pull a stomach muscle while throwing the ball. Gripping, searing, knife-stabbing pains shoot through my very small and apparently insignificant stomach muscles. I resist the desperate urge to curl up into a fetal position and roll about the floor.
If I keep up with Kill-fit, I will resemble a stooped Hunchback of Notre Dame who drags her right leg, no longer operable, behind her, and bends over from stomach muscles which have waved a white flag and long since receded.
I must be in my 40’s.
Don’t ask me why, but I return to Kill-fit week after week. I curse the class when I climb the stairs to my bedroom. Or try to change my shirt. My GOD my arms hurt. I can’t lift them past my sides.
On box jump day, I position my sturdy wooden box in front of me. I turn it on its side to make it a teensy bit closer to the ground. I’d prefer to take a chain saw and chop it into small pieces. Instead, with all my effort, I heft myself on top of that box with both feet. Mid-jump I realize I will only complete one box jump of the thirty Patrick confidently announced we would do. It may have also been the same moment I decided to put him on a plane back to Kenya.
It doesn’t help that the most tiny, diminutive Filipina woman across from me has a bigger, taller box than me, and somehow channels her inner-grasshopper, landing squarely on top of her box 30 times in a row. I try not to watch, but really, it’s so unfathomably remarkable that I think our whole class should sit down on our boxes and watch her. I kinda do.
Today there was a ray of hope, although at first glance I didn’t realize it. Patrick promised we’d be outside for part of class. Yay! It’s gorgeous and sunny and springy and I was so very happy to be outside.
Except. Except outside is the construction site. Our church is half-way to completion on a 61-unit low-income housing complex with retail space. Which means that the formerly grassy field where I envisioned our class romping, is now filled with backhoes, tractors, and men with orange hard hats who huddle in circles like gossiping girls with large rolls of blueprints.
Our available workout space is a thin strip of overgrown grass sandwiched between the chainlink boundary of the construction site and a small drop off on the other side. Three gigantic semi-truck sized black rubber tires fill the strip. Our workout? Flipping over the tires.
We assume our squat positions with our toes pressed up against the base of the mammoth tire. “Get your chest up! Now explode!” says our ridiculous trainer.
I realize I should not swear at Patrick out loud. Especially here — between my church and my church’s good deed housing complex. God may come and burn up our tiny strip of grass if I do. I wonder if I stare at Patrick long enough and hard enough, will he know my eyes are swearing at him?
I flip that freakin’ tire over. Once. That will be all. Thank you very much. Now I will go home and die.
Patrick then explains we will flip the tires over 6 times during each Kill-fit rotation. My eyes swear at him again.
My first rotation I manage one tire flip. I squat for the second try, butt dragging on the ground, but cannot budge that tire. I give up and walk away, until a little huddle of construction workers standing nearby taunts me with “oh come on, you can do it!”
Fine. I can do it. I return to the tire. And I flip that freakin’ tire over, again. But really, that’s all I can do.
On my second rotation, I wonder if I should even try the tires. But those hard hats are still lingering so now I have to try. I flip it once, twice, three, four times. It’s occurred to me that if I don’t actually begin with my ass on the ground, I can get more leverage and a better grip. It becomes less about strength and more about technique.
On my third and final rotation, I saunter up to that tire like a boyfriend who’s getting the axe that day. My sweat soaked shirt belies the several stations in the gym I’ve already completed ungracefully. My final ungraceful move will be the tires.
I grab hold of that bad puppy and heave ho. Not once, but six times. On the sixth flip, half way up, I’m sure my legs will buckle and the tire will pin me to the ground, flat as Flat Stanley. In my heart of hearts I know my legs will need to be amputated but the upside will be never doing squats with tires again.
I keep pushing. I slide the tire tread up my sweats, up my shirt, under my chin and across my face to get that thing to flip over. I give it a little extra oomph at the last minute, to make sure it makes a bigger crash sound when it hits the ground.
Because that’s how we girls roll, or at least how we make our tires roll.
Then I say a prayer of thanksgiving for Patrick, and for the ray of hope he’s given me today. Even though I’m convinced for the next week my legs will only have strength enough to crawl across my kitchen floor and I will be reduced to wearing sleeveless tops to ease the seering pain in my un-liftable arms, still I’m happy to realize I’m a wee bit stronger this week than last.
Which is pretty much true for life, even if you do have a big mother of a tire you have to push over.